The forthcoming Ian Broll Merrick Stages Rally (1st September) has joined the ranks of ‘wee cars first’ running order. In company with the Border, Granite, Scottish and McRae rallies, the Merrick will run Class 1–7 ahead of the bigger engined 2WD cars and the 4WD brigade.
This will cause a bit of a stooshie in certain quarters. With half the events in Scotland’s premier national rallying series already running such a system, this will tip the balance firmly in favour of those running more modestly powered vehicles ahead of the bigger and faster cars.
The Jim Clark doesn’t really count because it runs its stages on sealed surface roads, so they don’t cut up, but it will leave the Snowman and Speyside exposed. Do they follow suit, or do they stick to their guns?
The debate boils down to two views. The front running 4WD cars in ‘normal’ seeding stand accused of cutting up the forest roads ahead of the smaller 2WD class cars running behind, so it is in the 2WDrivers’ interest to run at the head of the field – less damage to their cars.
But for those who originally started their rallying career at the back of the field and have earned the right through speed and success to move up towards the front are now being penalised.
There is also the issue of safety. The original reason for using ‘performance-led seeding’ of entry lists was to ensure that slower and less experienced crews ran behind the faster more successful crews. It was never about money at that time, it was about safety.
Nowadays organisers have introduced gaps between the two categories, but this introduces delays to the event’s timetable and accidents can still happen.
However, no-one can dispute the idea that running Class 1-7 ahead of the main field leads to more entries from those who own smaller cars, and in these cost-conscious days, that has to be a prime attraction for introducing such a system.
Organising a rally is a costly affair for an amateur car club, and if they get their sums wrong, a big loss can lead to extinction. In other words, they need the numbers to try and keep Entry Fees to an acceptable level.
Before they even turn a wheel, most clubs are looking at an 18 grand Forestry Bill, then they have to start adding their own organisational expenses, insurance and the costs of complying with MSA rules and regulations.
The only way out of this might be to ban all 4WD cars, but then again, a 300 bhp rear wheel drive machine putting all that power down through two wheels can cause more damage than a 300 bhp all wheel drive car.
So that begs the question, does rallying put a cap on power outputs as well as a ban on total traction?
No doubt the debate will continue.